Avatar: The Legend of Korra, Book 4: Change may be the last animated entry into one of the best television shows of the past decade. In honor of this milestone, Channel Surfer is providing a retrospective on each Avatar season, from starting the original series to the latest. This is meant to be an overview for Avatar veterans, and hopefully an introduction for anyone interested in the show. This week we start with The Last Airbender, Book 2: Earth.
Original Run: 2006
No. of Episodes: 20
Premise: Avatar takes place in a world where humans can bend the fire, water, earth, and air. Once, the four nations lived in harmony, until the fire nation attacked. Only the “Avatar,” master of all four elements could stop them, but when the world needed him most, he vanished. A century later, the new Avatar is found, and must reestablish balance to the world.
Book 2: Earth
After their victory in the North Pole, Team Avatar travel to the Earth Kingdom to begin Aang’s earthbending training. There they find Toph, a blind earthbending prodigy who joins the team to tutor the Avatar. Things, however, don’t go exactly as planned when the deadly Fire Princess Azula mercilessly hunts down Aang and his friends. After a mentally and physically grueling series of adventures, the team decided to travel to the largest city in the world, Ba Sing Se. Meanwhile, Fire Prince Zuko must cope with being branded a failure by his father and the Fire Nation, and deals with a crisis of identity that may determine the fate of the entire world.
Watching the Show
By the second season, The Last Airbender is rolling on full steam. I can safetly say that there really isn’t a bad episode in the entire season. This is partly because the show doesn’t have to spend so much time establishing the lore and can focus more on adventures. Taking place largely within the Earth Kingdom, the show explores a whole new culture and people. There had been earthbenders before, but now we get to see who they function as a society. Personally, I love this aspect of Avatar.
This season also introduces arguably the best characters in the franchise, Azula and Toph. Azula is the Princess of the Fire Nation and Zuko’s younger sister. She’s also an incredibly dangerous firebender with no mercy or empathy. She’s so evil, I love it! Toph, on the other hand, is a tough talking earthbender with the skillz to pay the billz ten times over. Aside from these two, Zuko also comes into his own this season, graduating from a semi-sympathetic antagonist to full blown troubled anti-hero. His character arc was particularly fascinating this season, and although not covered here, I would recommend “Zuko Alone” (S.2, Ep. 7) for anyone interested in his story.
The Blind Bandit (S.2, Ep. 6)
So here’s the thing. There may be better episodes than “The Blind Bandit” this season (which is practically chock full of great episodes), but I feel that it’s really one of funnier ones. I mean, Toph gets introduced in a giant homage to 80’s wrestling, right down to the guy singing a foreign anthem and Mick Foley voicing a Hulk Hogan parody. That’s amazing on so many levels. Plus, there’s the whole introducing a new main character thing. That’s good too, I guess.
Tales of Ba Sing Se (S.2, Ep.15)
“Tales of Ba Sing Se” is great. The episode is split up into five segments, each starring one of the show’s main characters. Zuko goes on a date, Katara and Toph have a girl’s day out, Sokka read’s poetry, it’s hilarious. But the stand out moment is of course “The Tale of Iroh,” which was already bitter sweet, but becomes more so when you discover that it was the legendary Mako Iwamatsu’s last performance before he passed.
Appa’s Lost Days (S.2, Ep.16)
I don’t mean to be a downer, but come on! Clearly “Appa’s Lost Days” was going to be on the list. One of the main plot points in season two was finding Appa, Aang’s pet flying bison who had been stolen midway through the season. In this episode, we get to see Appa’s incredibly tragic journey, drawing obvious parallels to real life poaching and animal abuse. Thankfully, it all works out in the end, but that doesn’t impact the power and gravity of this masterpiece.